Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Advice needed on how an organisation can form a network using web 2.0 technology

I have been asked by an organization for ideas on how to develop a network between themselves and other organizations who are interested in the same issues. And I wondered what your advice would be.

The organization is a non-government organization(NGO) made up of members who provide health care and accommodation services to the community. The NGO is particularly interested in how it can provide education and professional development opportunities to its members. It is also very concerned about recruitment and retention, and is keen to investigate ways of supporting staff. And it is very keen to communicate and collaborate with other organizations who are looking at the same employment issues, not just in health.

Where to from here?
The NGO would like ideas on how it can utilize social networking technology and networked learning to reach out to organizations and individuals who are interested in similar issues. It has a traditional website and uses Elluminate to deliver education packages.

Initial ideas
Here are some of my initial ideas:
  1. Contact and network with people who are 'experts' in social networking in the NGO context such as Beth Kanter. Network with them, see what they say and seek their advice. For example, Beth has a great blog called 'Beth's Blog: How nonprofits can use social media'. In it she talks about issues facing NGOs, develops strategies and shares links and resources.
  2. Also, contact and follow people who specialize in workplace learning, life-long learning and professional development such as Michele Martin and Tony Karrer. Their blogs are hugely rich in ideas and resources. They are also founders of the Work Literacy project which aims to support "individuals, companies and organizations who are interested in learning, defining, mentoring, teaching and consulting on the frameworks, skills, methods and tools of modern knowledge work."
  3. Become familiar with the technology that is available, and think about how it could be utilized to communicate, collaborate and share. Going back to Beth, she uses Slideshare to publish and share her presentations such as this one: Nonprofits, healthcare and social media.
  4. Don't waste time looking at media and technology that costs - make it a rule to only utilize 'free stuff'.
  5. Make use of free learning events and opportunities that will help educate everyone on how to use technology. For example, for information about the ins and outs of blogging, I would recommend the 31 Day Bogging Challenge and 31 Day Comment Challenge.
  6. And don't forget that YouTube provides thousands of instructional videos that gives information on how to use particular tools and resources. Here is a video on how to make baked lemon cheesecake which I know has nothing to do with social media, but I think it illustrates really nicely how YouTube can be used to teach and share collaboratively.
  7. Start to incorporate social media into everyday working life. For example, for collaborative projects that requires the development of a document, use Google docs instead of sending emails back and forth. Another suggestion would to be to use a social bookmarking web site such as Delicious to share resources, which is particularly useful if working on a collaborative project.
  8. Start to build a network by 'getting out there' and sharing ideas and resources. Start to build a reputation for sharing and collaborative work, and then people will ask to connect with you. This may involve starting an organization blog or wiki. But at the same time, be mindful that it can take time and effort to develop a meaningful network.
Over to you
What other tips would you pass on? What has worked well for you and what hasn't worked at all? Is there any difference in how an organization would approach networking to an individual?

Image: 'Meeting Table' mnadi


Anonymous said...

you did a great job with the suggestions. Here's an organization in US that is network of health care outreach workers. They have a lot of experience in creating networks of organizations AND beginning to incorporate social media. I'd connect with them ask about their experience

Johanna Bates is their tech person - and she wrote an excellent post about walking the line between cutting edge tech and old skool

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you very much for that, Beth.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah--great list! A couple of other thoughts to add to it.

Find specific problems or projects where social media might be a good fit for getting things done more effectively. This makes it more likely that people will want to use the tools.

Also, Beth didn't mention it, but she's put together a great site called "We are Media: A Social Media Starter Kit for Nonprofits" that has a log of great resources. It's at:

Jenny Mackness said...

Don't forget Nancy White -

and CPsquare -

is also a good source of information.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information.
How about having one developed from this network? An initiative that involves the strong and weak "ties"...
You are welcome to visit
and comment.

Anonymous said...

I am an information architect and this type of problem is my daily bread and butter.

As you suggest,
1. talk to a user representative like the name you provided. Find out who are examples that would might use these tools (by role)

2. Find some example users and interview them as to problems they need resolving int his information area. Ask how they currently resolve their issues. Ask how they would like to get them resolved. Ask about the environment they operate (lots of technology tools or not for example)

3. Generate a list of user requirements

4. Come up with user scenarios and user profiles

5. out the desired methods of interacting.

6. Find a technology tool to solve items 3-5. It may be open source, it may be proprietary. Remember, you get what you py (or not pay) for.

Sarah Stewart said...

@Beth Thank you for all your work in this area - I've found a lot of useful resources on your blog. I particularly have enjoyed "Dancing in the space between digital natives and digital immigrants".

@Michele I agree totally that integrating tools into projects ie role modeling is one of the best ways to get people interested - I am totally convinced that people have to see a practical relevance for them before they will engage with technology.

@Jenny Thanks for the reminder about Nancy - she is another wonderful help in this area. I have recently been reading her ideas about being a technology steward ie not just pointing the way to the technology but selecting what to use and supporting its use in the community.

I was also thinking that the work of Etienne Wenger is also worth looking at - how to develop a community of practice.

@John Thanks for the link to your blog. Your thoughts and questions about connectivism and how we use our networks are very important ones which will no doubt keep me thinking :)

@Bradley Thank you very much for your ideas and suggestions - greatly appreciated.

Sarah Stewart said...

Stephen Blyth and "Community Central".

Rayat NGO said...

Dear Sarah,

Hi, if you need any help for computer technologies we can provide it to you as we have trained hundreds of teachers from maharshtra free with the help of survi consulting and aaditya technologies pioneers in erp and IT consulting firms.

To know about us visit us at